Beginning and ending with two film citations (“For a film, it is enough if we can photograph free people”, Jean-Luc Godard, and “I love these stubborn youths,” from Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds), the latest film by Hungary’s György Szomjas, The Sun Street Boys, on the tragic events of 1956, is his “most important,” according to the director.
by Gabriele Barcaro
“On the 50th anniversary [of 1956] other films were made on the subject, but I didn’t like them,” added Szomjas, whose film screened in the sidebar Lo Stato delle Cose (this year dedicated entirely to politics) of the Turin Film Festival, laying claim to his role as a witness. “At the time, I was 16 and I experienced two great things: the Budapest Revolution and rock'n'roll,” he said.
Sun Street Boys features a lot of both: Soviet tanks as they invade the country and devices for listening to Elvis, which was banned by the regime. (Piracy already existed back then – one could cut homemade records on X-rays.)
And then there are the boys of the title, who love and fight with the same naïve intensity as they struggle to defend at least one block of their capital. The characters are invented (and love affairs romanticised, including a classic love triangle) yet faithful to history.
Sun Street actually exists, for example. “It is parallel to the Paal Street of the famous novel by Ferenc Molnár,” added the director (co-writer of the film with Ákos Kertész and Gábor Heller), who wanted to depict “the climate that spawned these ‘gangs’, who 50 years ago opposed the occupation, made up mostly of youths who have become part of the national legend.”
Just like the main characters (played by Péter Bárnai, Sándor Czeczô and Kata Gáspár), who choose a cinema as their headquarters. While The Sun Street Boys pays the price of a not very original script, it features a sincere (and autobiographical) love for cinema with references to film icons such as Silvana Mangano and Anna Magnani.
The predictability of the story is also redeemed by the film’s visual style and Ferenc Grunwalsky’s camerawork, in which colour and black & white blend into one another continuously, often in the same shot.